The $10 million program comes as the city looks to provide additional support for tens of thousands of asylum seekers who’ve arrived in the five boroughs in recent months.
On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams launched the “Promise NYC” program to provide child care to undocumented children with low-income parents, aiming to serve 600 children for the remainder of the school year, January through June.
The $10 million program, which had been included as part of the mayor’s “Blueprint for Child Care & Early Childhood Education in New York City,” comes as the city looks to provide additional support for tens of thousands of asylum seekers who’ve arrived in the five boroughs in recent months. Immigrant families are already lining up to access the service, according to providers.
The city is contracting with four community-based organizations (CBOs) to implement the program in each of their respective boroughs, which will screen and select immigrant families in need of child care support.
The Chinese American Planning Council (CPC) will handle applicants residing in Queens. Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC) will run the program in Manhattan and The Bronx, while La Colmena will serve families on Staten Island. The Center for Family Life will implement the initiative in Brooklyn.
“It would probably be less complicated than the regular child care application process,” said Judy Ah-Yune, director of CPC Manhattan Community Services.
Immigration advocates have pushed state lawmakers to pave the way for universal child care that would include undocumented children, whose families don’t qualify for state or federal subsidies because of their immigration status. But the state’s $7 billion in early child care funding included in this year’s budget, while an increase from prior investments, excluded undocumented families.
The city’s new program will be open to all immigrant families who qualify, said CPC’s Chief Program Officer Edgar Pereira, including both recently arrived immigrants or asylum seekers and those who have been residing in the city for years.
There are two basic criteria for applying, the CBOs explained: being an undocumented immigrant who does not qualify for any type of child care offered by the state or federal government, and demonstrating the need (earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level) for child care for children ages 6 weeks to 13 years old.
“We’re particularly focused on 5 years and under,” NMIC’s Director of Legal, Organizing, & Advocacy Services Rodrigo Sanchez-Camus said, explaining that families with young children have even fewer options because they can’t access the city’s universal pre-K, which is available to children ages 4 and up.
CBOs stressed that details are still being finalized but expect to launch the program in early January. Some organizations are already receiving calls from families interested in applying, as in the case of Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, where there are already 10 families in the process as of Dec.15. Other organizations such as NMIC are still finalizing recruitment and prefer that those interested contact them at the beginning of January.
Ah-Yune said that families can approach the CBOs with the details of the child care providers they want to work with (as long as they are licensed or regulated daycare providers), or they can meet with a child care specialist from the organization to find one.
Some organizations are anticipating high demand as more than 30,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the city in recent months, on top of hundreds of thousands of immigrant families already residing here. In response, Adams declared a state of emergency in October, though the city’s Administration for Child Services (ACS), which is overseeing the child care program, said plans for the initiative were already underway before that.
While demand is likely to be higher than the 600 children the program can accommodate, advocates applauded the initiative, saying lack of child care has been one of the obstacles for asylum-seeker families living in shelters to obtain stable employment.
“Newly arrived asylum seekers have also had difficulty accessing child care, exacerbating the challenges of integrating into their new city,” Liza Schwartzwald, senior manager of immigration policy for the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement.
Each of the CBOs aims to incorporate a minimum number of families into the program: about 205 for CPC; 180 for Center for Family Life In Sunset Park; and between 115 and 135 for NMIC.
“This is a major step for ACS,” Center for Family Life Co-Director Julia Jean-Francois said. “They have really listened to us and agreed to what we ask for.”